Put capital punishment to death

By Editorial Board

The Illinois General Assembly recently passed a bill that would make capital punishment in Illinois a thing of the past. The fate of the bill now rests in the hands of Gov. Pat Quinn, who has not yet decided whether he will sign it or not.

Illinois has had a moratorium on executions in place since former Gov. George Ryan implemented it in 2000, after 13 wrongfully convicted death row inmates were exonerated based on new evidence. The moratorium put a halt on executions until the justice system could be reformed to avoid wrongful convictions.

However, this postponement of executions is not enough. The death penalty needs to be abolished. The system can never be fixed to be 100 percent certain that an innocent person won’t be executed. Mistakes can always be made, but a wrongfully convicted prisoner can be let out of jail. An execution can’t be undone, and nothing can bring back a wrongfully taken life.

Additionally, if we as a society want to send the message that murder is an abhorrent offense, we should not be reinforcing that point by killing. Spending a lifetime in prison—particularly in solitary confinement—is punishment enough. Criminals should have to live with the consequences of what they’ve done and reflect on their crimes, rather than be handed an easy way out with an execution.

Supporters of the death penalty often complain the state is wasting money keeping death row inmates alive in prison. However, processing death penalty cases and pursuing executions in the justice system is far more expensive than keeping inmates in prison for life.

Extended jury selection and investigation processes in death penalty cases rack up large personnel costs before a trial even begins. Death penalty trials also last longer than regular murder trials, putting an additional strain on the state’s finances and legal system.

The death penalty is an outdated, immoral, irreversible and expensive punishment with no clear benefits and it needs to end. For moral and fiscally practical reasons, Quinn should sign the bill and make Illinois the 16th state to abolish the barbaric system of capital punishment.